I have something to admit.

I may have a problem.

This is … this is difficult. But as the saying goes, admitting I have a problem is the first step towards recovery.

So here is my story.

It started a number of years ago; maybe eight, maybe ten, at the corner Loaf & Jug convenience store. I’d stopped by late in the evening on my way to work the night shift, looking for something to help me stay awake. I watched as another man glanced around surreptitiously before pulling out his money for his furtive purchase.

Oh, I was familiar with what he was buying. But I never thought I’d try it myself, mainly because of the bad things I’d heard and how awful some people believed it to be.

Seeing this stranger, with his shaking hands and euphoric contentment, struck a chord in me, a longing for something new, different, and a little bit rebellious and experimental for a guy such as myself.

So I did it. I bought my own, the most I could get (it was going to be a long night). Minutes later, in my car parked on the shadowy side of the lot, where no-one could see, I finally tried it myself.

Instantly, I knew why the other man looked so happy, as I felt the warm contentedness spreading through me myself. That night, as I worked, I continued taking it in small doses, wanting it to last, wanting that warmth and the feel and the taste to never end.

That began the descent into what many will call an addiction.

That was my very first pumpkin spice latte.

I know many will scoff at this revelation, not seeing it as a real addiction, but each fall, it seems I just can’t get enough of this particular flavor combination. A combination that, while marked with pictures of pumpkin pie and whipped cream, does not particularly taste like its namesake – no significant amount of pumpkin, but hints of cinnamon and nutmeg and crushed fall leaves and brisk chilled breeze and maybe just a subtle undertone of woodsmoke to tie it all together, it’s like autumn on the tongue for me.

People seem to fall into two distinct categories, dividing our nation even more greatly than any of the current political battlefields: either loving pumpkin spice in all its various permutations, or detesting even the most subtle trace or glimpsed sight they may experience.

And so I call them out: this time of year is not for you. This is the time for me, and my spice-loving brethren.

Luckily, there’s plenty out there to satisfy my craving, and each year around September, old products being rolled out are greeted with new products released for the first time, seeking to cash in on the popularity fueled by my and others stomachly obsession.

Each year, however, I seem to get a little bit more out of hand.

What started with pumpkin spice lattes carried over to pumpkin spice flavored coffee creamer. Thanks not only is my go-to spice fix, but is also usually the first to show up on the grocery store shelves, telling me that the time is at hand for the pumpkin spice goodness to begin its march onto the aisles of the supermarket and then from there into the deepest, darkest depths of my hungry, hungry maw.

Inevitably, pumpkin spice snack cakes make themselves available. I try to hold back, limiting myself to just one type per week. Currently, I’m enjoying sponge cakes with pumpkin spice flavored creme filling. Last week, it was pumpkin spice cake rolls. Maybe next week, it will be sandwich cookies.

All I know is I want to try as many varieties as I can before they disappear once again.

For breakfast today, I thoroughly enjoyed pumpkin spice pancakes. I also know there are pumpkin spice chocolates and candy corn out there, somewhere, just waiting for me to find. Probably lurking near the pumpkin spice breakfast cereals. But it doesn’t end there: I have pumpkin spice air freshener in my bathroom, so I can indulge both coming and going.

Each year, I search the internet for lists of new, seasonal pumpkin spice products. Mae West famously stated, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful!”

Why should I doubt her wisdom?

So I’ll stock my pantry with pumpkin spice bagels and bread, as well as the pumpkin spice granola bars the internet tells me are out there this year. Apparently there is pumpkin spice ice cream to indulge in as well. And if I start feeling sickly, pumpkin spice cough drops may come to my rescue; my orange-hued, ginger-powdered hero.

There’s pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls (that probably didn’t take a lot of work to come up with) and pumpkin spice yoghurt. Really, if you can imagine it, it’s probably out there, and flavored like fall.

(I’m probably going to need to find some pumpkin spice antacids.)

I’m going to keep an out for the pumpkin spice lip balm I’ve seen mentioned, and I’ve heard there’s flavored vodka out there as well. (I wonder if I can find it in rum? What incredible eggnog that would make! Especially if it’s pumpkin spice flavored eggnog!)

(Which is a thing.)

Pumpkin spice marshmallows are on my list, for sweet potatoes or hot chocolate or for a solitaire game of chubby bunny behind closed doors.

(Surprising no one, I’m sure. I’m trying to tackle one issue at a time.)

If I can track down the pumpkin spice scented bleach, it’s going in my cart. While I haven’t heard of it (yet), I’m hoping to find like-scented fabric softener or dryer sheets.

(Smelling that much like food, however, may be borderline insensitive. To my own stomach!)

Addiction aside, I’ve seen mention of a few products that cross even my own lines of taste. I really can’t see myself using pumpkin spice deodorant, for instance.

So maybe I’m not a lost cause. Maybe … maybe there’s hope for me still …

Because the pumpkin spice bologna is absolutely out of the question.

Sorry, Miss West.

There just has to be a limit.

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Some days, I think I’m the best driver on the road.

Most days, I’m sure of it. Everyone drives worse than me.

Of course, nearly anyone randomly asked probably answers the same. Those who do not, do not actually drive.

It’s a logical fallacy because everyone cannot be the best driver in the world. (Although at least one person will be correct.)

It’s too bad it’s not true; driving would be a lot less messy and miserable.

Each of us has reason to believe we’re the best on the road. We’ve all seen the issues with others when we drive. Turn signals that are not used. Right of ways ignored. Laws of physics challenged.

Interestingly enough, ask any person where the worst drivers are, and they will invariably answer with their own location. Another logical fallacy (although once again one answer will be correct.) Usually, it seems the better of a driver a person thinks they are, the worse they’ll say the other drivers are in their area.

(With that being said …)

The drivers in my city are awful.

While driving, anyone I see doing something wrong on the road is automatically an idiot driver. (If I were to do the same thing, it’s simply a one-time mistake, of course.) However, those who show repeated mistakes in quick progression certainly don’t do themselves any favors.

It can be argued, I suppose, that these people are actually very good drivers – I mean, look at them. Look at the mistakes they make, not using their blinker. Look at the risks they take, weaving in and out of traffic. Look at how fast they go, ignoring the posted speed limit. Look … just look at them as they insert their contact lenses.

Yet, somehow, they remain in control of their vehicles. (Stop looking now; it’s getting more and more terrifying.)

I’ll admit to a grudging amount of respect for these drivers, although I don’t like them, nor do I want to be like them. I certainly don’t like the anger they cause me. I blame my high blood pressure on other people in cars. Each time I narrowly avoid yet another accident, I can just feel those systolic/diastolic numbers ticking upwards. And I doubt I’m the only one.

But really, is it that they’re excellent drivers avoiding the accidents that would befall others, or is it that the wheeled herd they travel with has enough better drivers to make up for the willful ignoring of common vehicle operation safety laws by these nefarious individuals?

No matter how good of a driver you believe yourself to be, I’m sure we can all agree some activities while driving are simply inexcusable. The cupholder is not for martinis, for instance. This really began to be frowned upon during the 70s, probably because the high alcohol content of a spilled drink was dangerously able to melt polyester on contact.

Additionally, while I don’t think eating behind the wheel should be regulated as heavily, using both hands to do so really crosses a line. Especially if the vehicle has a manual transmission.

Furthermore, the vanity mirror should not be used while driving to apply makeup or shave. I’m fairly certain most modern vehicles warn against these activities right there beside the mirror. One day, I’m sure the cover to the mirror will lock in place when the vehicle is in motion.

(Actually, that’s a pretty good idea. I hope a vehicle designer happens to be reading this.)

I suspect you believe I’m exaggerating, but I’ve witnessed each of these, sometimes more than once.

Some I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve borne witness.

(To save space, let’s not even get into a discussion on the use of cellphones.)

It could be there’s a sweet spot in age, a span of years where one not only thinks they’re a good driver, but actually are demonstrably, reasonably capable. Somewhere between the five years after a license is first achieved, and the age of leaving the turn signal on for 50 miles without realizing it, there’s the top of the bell curve we all try to reach and surpass.

(There’s an insurance agent reading this who knows exactly what I’m talking about, and probably has the answer right off the top of their head.)

Like I wrote earlier, I’ve made my own “mistakes” while driving. Looking at them objectively, it’s probably time to admit I’m getting close to the end of my own perfect driving sweet-spot.

My first major accident happened when I was 20; I turned in front of a vehicle I didn’t see and totalled the car I was driving.

My second major accident happened a few years ago when I drove through an intersection (with a green light!) and my vehicle was totalled by the police car I pulled into the path of when I didn’t see it.

The first one was my fault, I freely admit. The second was not. Even so, I’ve begun to find myself making a conscious effort to check to see if my turn signal is still flashing, or that the gasoline hose was put back before I leave the station, or that my coat isn’t closed in the bottom of the door. Again.

(I think I’ll stop now before this somehow gets back to my insurance agent and my rates increase.)

I’m astonished by the things I see other drivers get away with on a daily basis. How can anyone think it’s a good idea to pass on the right on a one-lane on ramp? Why has the yellow light become the universal symbol for drivers to increase their speeds? When was the class held that so many people missed that taught that the right-turn-only lane at a light is not there to suddenly accelerate ahead of everyone and cut into the main line of traffic going through the intersection?

To revisit the idea that I live in the city with the worst drivers – it’s not that I think these things don’t happen in other places. It’s that I don’t think they happen with such regularity.

Finally, while yes, I am actually close enough to read the snarky print on your bumper sticker suggesting I need to back off or do something with myself physiologically impossible at my age, it’s only because you pulled in front of me and immediately began to brake. So there.

If it gets bad enough, I guess I could always take the bus.

But … that’s an entirely different circle of hell on earth that I’d rather not revisit.

I am missing a front tooth. I used to be a bouncer.

(These two statements are completely unrelated, although both are true. It just made the opening seem much more interesting.)

In the late 90s, I hung out at a bar named Albuquerque Mining Company. I don’t remember how I became a regular there; I guess at the time it was the most welcoming bar I had found, and before long, I’d spend a number of my evenings there. I must have liked the atmosphere and the people, because I wasn’t a drinker then any more than I am now; soda or coffee were my choices.

I became friends with the cashier at the door, hanging out there and talking to him. Before long, people started showing me their IDs while I sat there on a stool, and not much longer after that, I started getting paid for it. Thursday nights were the busiest nights, and the bar’s manager, Midnyte, hired me to officially check IDs and help out around the bar.

In doing so, he opened a door and personally led me into a fascinating adventure featuring the bizarrity of humanity. Starting my very first night.

I sat on my stool checking IDs while George the ever-present cashier collected the cover. When the line died down enough to allow, I’d make a round through the various rooms of the bar. As I passed through the dance floor, the bartender waved me over- a number of patrons had told him of some sort of disturbance going on in the smaller room off to the side of the DJ booth, and he asked that I take a look.

The small room had low lights, and it seemed even darker coming from the swirling lights and strobes of the dance floor. The bed sheet that immediately hit me in the face didn’t help my eyes adjust any quicker.

After removing the sheet and adjusting to the dim lighting, I joined the circle of people staring at the center of the room, where there sat a folding chair. On the chair sat two women with one head.

No – one very large woman. In only her underclothes.

On top of her three women with one head another large woman frantically removed her clothing in flagrante delicto. I realized I held the woman’s shirt, not a bed sheet.

The alcohol servers certification class I had taken did not prepare me for this. Neither did Roadhouse.

Ignoring all others, their hands writhed across each other’s body in time to the music; they hungrily mouthed each other’s face as if they’d been smeared with honey.

“Excuse me,” I said, gingerly poking the smaller of the large women with my finger on what I hoped was not a breast.

No response.

EXCUSE ME!” I bellowed, straining to be heard above the dance beat and gelatinous sucking sounds.

Without stopping, their eyes opened and looked up at me. “YOU CAN’T DO THAT HERE!” I shouted down at them. I tossed the bed-shirt over their heads, and walked away. A few minutes later, they swept past me out the door and into the night, holding hands and giggling.

And so the spectacle began.

Another Thursday night, and again I made my rounds through the bar. Some of the rooms had themes- including the dungeon, lit only by TVs in the corners and the small light behind the bar the bartender used to read labels.

It usually smelled like leather, and wet pennies.

“Psst!”

(This was the first time in my life someone actually said “psst!” to me.)

I looked down at a round man with slicked back hair. I’m not overly tall, standing six feet, maybe 6’2” in my boots, but he only came up to my chest.

“Hey … do you have any powder?” he hissed.

I drew a blank. Powder? I had no idea what he could mean … unless!

“Why?” I asked, concerned and puzzled. “Are you chafing?”

He looked at me, confusion obvious in his close-set beetle-black eyes, then shook his neckless head, and wandered away.

(I eventually understood what he wanted, but it took me a number of years. I wasn’t yet completely without innocence.)

Most other nights were not nearly as busy as Thursdays. To bring in more business, Midnyte hired talented local boys to dance on the bar, wearing as little as the law allowed.

This included Shorter Dancer and Taller Dancer. Shorter Dancer was wiry, and wore little more than spray-on glitter. He told me once how he managed to express such high levels of ecstasy while giving lap dances.

“I close my eyes, lift my arm, try to bury my face in my armpit, and open my mouth like I’ve just stubbed my toe,” he said.

(Go ahead, try this at home. It really works!)

On one of the especially slow nights, a few other employees, dancers, and I all sat around the corner of the front bar. Brian tended bar, and for ten minutes entertained us by rolling his bar towel up in such a way that it looked like a cooked chicken, then making it dance for us. Finally, he shook out the towel, threw it back over his shoulder, and took a long drag off his cigarette.

He put a plastic salt shaker on the bar, and looked at the taller of the bar’s two dancers.

“I’ll give you 10 bucks if you can pick that up without using your hands or arms,” he said.

“Ok,” said Taller Dancer.

With the flexibility of the young, he squatted over the salt shaker, pressing it into his sweating bum crack. As the minutes passed, he repeatedly clenched, strained, and grunted, but every time, the salt shaker slid free when he tried to stand. Finally, his cheeks (and face) red, he admitted defeat and hopped down off the bar.

Shorter Dancer immediately ran over and started sniffing the salt shaker.

We all howled with laughter, and a bit of disgust. They both earned $10 that night.

Towards the end of my time there, I sat at my usual place at the bar, wearing my usual outfit – trench coat, black clothes, boots, etc. Nursing my cherry coke (Brian always gave me extra cherries), I lamented to him that, for as much of a meat market the bar was reputed to be, rarely did anyone hit on me, besides the occasional drunken lesbian.

“Wellll …” he said, drawing out the word like he didn’t want to move on to what was to be said next, “It’s because everyone’s afraid of you.”

“Afraid of me?!” I asked, incredulous, after returning from the parking lot where I had just tackled another lesbian trying to throw a cinder block through her estranged girlfriend’s windshield. (“Suck my diccckkk!!!” she screamed at me from the car window as they drove into the night.) “Why the hell would anyone be afraid of me?”

“Psst …” came from behind me.

“Oh, go away already!” I snapped.

Eventually, the late nights started taking too great a toll on my day job, and I gave up my life of breaking up fights, lugging around the occasional beer keg, dodging the talon-like fingernails of Central’s finest “ladies” of the evening (the prettiest ones were always men in drag), and putting out the occasional flaming garbage can with a fire extinguisher, as well as the occasional heated couple in the bathroom, and left my job.

Decades have passed since, and I lived in another state when the Mining Company shut its doors for good, but not before one final blowout of a party that I would have loved to attend. Even the building is gone now, torn down to make way for a modern pharmacy.

Nothing’s ever going to tear down those memories of the crazy nights of dancing chickens, dueling drag queens, and daring dancers, however. Somehow, we all managed to keep each other sane.

I have no regrets, but these days, I’m long past the age of being able to hang out at bars until the wee hours of the night and still function the next day, let alone stay awake.

I’ll leave the new adventures in the capable hands of today’s uninhibited youth. Perhaps one of them will rise to the challenge, and finally manage to pick up a salt shaker without using their hands.

Or not.

But hopefully, someone will at least try.

 

 

All dogs are special. Especially to their owners.

But this is the story of an EXTRA special dog.

I met him when he was just a pup. There’s a picture from that day, of me hugging a 20 pound yellow lab (just like my older dog, Ike) as he blissfully points his nose at the ceiling, staring into space.

Mater belonged to my coworker and friend Cory and her husband Jack. He was special in another way- it wasn’t until all of his litter mates were gone that Cory and Jack realized Mater was blind. He followed his litter mates around initially, but even on his own, it was difficult to tell he couldn’t see. He had an unerring ability to get around, only rarely bumping into objects in his way.

Mater and I bonded immediately. He also bonded with Ike. When Cory would watch Ike for me, he was Mater’s best friend, whether he wanted to be or not. Ike loved to fetch, and Mater would run right behind him until Ike picked up the thrown stick. Mater would work his way up Ike’s side, then latch on to the other end of the stick and let Ike lead him around.

Mater loved spending time with Ike; Ike exhibited a grumpy patience with him, and being with them both filled me with a quiet happiness that’s difficult to explain to someone who’s never experienced it for themselves: the comfort of the fall, the quiet simplicity of the sun, the contentedness of furry warmth, and the omnipresence of being these creatures’ utmost importance.

Cory moved on to another job, and every time I’d see her, I’d always say, “Hi! Where’s Mater?” Frequently, he was waiting outside in the truck. It was always disappointing when he wasn’t.

While Mater loved everyone, not everyone understood his handicap, or how well he usually overcame it. Shortly after arriving at a Christmas party one year when he was still very young, I watched a group of children playing with Mater by calling his name from behind a desk across the room, and then laughing hysterically when he ran face-first into it trying to reach his playmates.

I decided playtime was over, and took Mater outside for a walk in the snow. And we walked, for the next two hours, while the house echoed in the distance with party goers.

I enjoyed myself far more with him than I would have if I’d stayed in the house.

Both Mater and Ike had their share of serious close calls – Ike nearly succumbing to pancreatitis; Mater being run over by a tractor. In his fearless nature, he didn’t know he ran in front of it until it was too late. Luckily, the ground and manure he was running over was soft enough that he sunk in under the weight of the tractor tires, barely leaving enough fur sticking out to show where he lay. Onlookers were sure he was dead, but astonishingly, he suffered only a broken leg.

After a few months in a cast, he was once again bounding around the farm with no cares for any danger.

Like any other lab, Mater loved to fetch. He’d listen to the ball or stick impacting the ground, and run for the sound, sniffing around until he found the toy, and then running back to where he’d started, helped along by the calling of his name.

I tried to make his play time a little easier. I bought a toy called a “Babble ball”, a ball with an electronic cartoon voice! Mater loved his new toy, homing in on it unerringly as it called out silly doggy words for him to follow. He nuzzle it with his snout while he rolled around on his back in his happiness.

Ike was already an old man by the time Mater came along, and a few years later Ike was just too tired to go on any longer.

Mater continued to greet me with his boundless joy, even though I visited him alone now. He had gained a few more animal friends to play with, a new litter to follow.

After Ike’s death, Cory finally cleared up a mystery that puzzled me from the day I met Mater. While Cory had a heart as big and warm as the sun, Jack had the gruffness and practicality of a long time rancher, and before Mater had come along, always stated that he’d never own a dog as a pet; that a farm dog had to earn its keep, and when the time came for the dog to be put down, he’d only do it himself if he had to.

So I’d never really understood why they took Mater home, although I certainly understood why they kept him.

As it turned out, they’d had a bit of a nefarious reason. They knew Ike wasn’t going to be around forever, and had planned on giving Mater to me after Ike was gone. Ike, however, lasted far longer than anyone expected, and by then, Jack had gotten far too used to sharing his four-wheeler rides and easy chair with Mater to ever give him up. It was just as well- Mater had a job to do, working the ranch, spreading his own brand of love and happiness to everyone and everything wherever he went.

The yellow lab with the biggest heart of gold. Cory referred to him as a four-legged saint. Blind, he still  managed to see the best in everyone.

I visited Mater for one of the last times when Jack was recovering from open heart surgery. He told me before he went into the OR,  he made sure everyone knew that if anything happened to him, Mater was to come to me.

Thankfully, that was never needed.

Soon after the visit, I moved far away. Mater still remained a bright point in my world; knowing he was out there and safe enabled me to feel that quiet happiness once more, even at a distance.

A few months ago, Cory wrote to me to let me know that Mater’s health suddenly started to decline, and they’d had to make the final trip to the vet. The vet initially thought Mater was suffering from fluid build up around his heart, but in the end confirmed what all of Mater’s friends already knew – his heart really was the biggest, over twice as big as it should have been.

I’ve never gotten another dog after Ike. Now, his erstwhile replacement is gone, too, leaving my world a bit darker.

But it’s still brighter than it would have been if Mater the blind dog had never come along.

Those two silly yellow labs are playing fetch with each other again, together always in my heart’s fondest memories.

I’m very good at putting things off. For instance, I intended this to be written a month ago. I’m also working on my list of New Year’s resolutions. There’s a few holiday cards I haven’t sent yet… And filing papers … and dusting …

So many other activities and stuff to be done keep interfering with with this activity and other stuff to be done, however: housework. Brushing the cat. Spontaneously re-caulking the entire tub. Staring blankly into space.

You know, important things.

Of course, I never expect any amount of significant time to go by when I put things off. Last week, I finally got around to cleaning some of my art pens. The ink inside had dried to a crust, and it was only then that I realized I’d last used them an entire year ago.

I’m a master procrastinator.

(There should be a word for that. I should think up one. And I will. In a bit.)

I put off the things that don’t have a built-in reminder. For instance, laundry has a reminder: there’s only so long I can go without washing clothes before I’m out of clean socks to wear and can’t really justify buying another pack of socks again.

Not that I’d ever do that. Between paychecks, at least.

These types of activities have direct, immediate benefits: do laundry- fresh clothes. Clean house- clean house. Feed cat- less bleeding.

I need to develop a way to get rewards for doing the tasks I’d rather put off.

(Professional procrastinator? A pro-pro? Eh… no.)

Writing would attract my attention so much more if every sentence finished delivered a piece of candy. And yes, I know some things should be their “own reward”, that accomplishing a goal should simply deliver “satisfaction” etc., etc. However, I guarantee I’d enjoy a peanut butter cup a heck of a lot more.

I don’t think I lack in self-discipline, either. Sometimes, it’s not that I don’t want to do something, it’s just that there is so much more I’d rather be doing instead. There’s also times when I feel guilty about doing one thing when there’s other things I feel would be a better application of the time I have.

It’s hard to sit through a movie for two hours, when I could be reading for that same amount of time. And it’s hard to read for two hours when I could be playing a game instead. And it’s hard to play a game when I know there’s laundry that needs folded before the cat sheds on it because I really need to brush the cat right now but I could make cookies too.

Mmm, cookies.

(Promasternator? That … that could lead to confusion. And strange looks.)

I suppose I need to learn to focus. Try not to get distracted by all the things I want to do, but chose one thing, focus on it, stick to it, finish the task. Receive cookie. Assuming I haven’t already focused on all the cookies until they were finished as well.

Turns out I did.

Focus on baking more cookies.

(Now that’s an excellent example of an accomplishment that’s its own reward.)

Still, even once I know what tasks need to be taken care of and have decided where my focus should be, there’s also the time factor to, um, factor: there’s only so many hours in a weekend that can be dedicated to anything that isn’t baked goods.

To be more existential about it, the older I get, the more aware I am of the time I have available. I’m only going to have a finite number of weekends in the future, and I don’t know how many that will be, even. Sometimes, time isn’t so much precious as it is terrifying, especially with the faster it tends to pass with every minute that goes by – time has momentum, it’s running down hill, and no one’s bothered to put in any speed bumps.

I think the cat is also aware of the passing of time in its finite allocation, which is why he interrupts mine so frequently.

(Masterpro! No, that’s just redundant.)

I think the only way to slow the speed of time is, ironically, with accomplishments. Finishing a book, finishing a movie, each lends to a dedicated segment of time that can be easily measured and marked – I watched that movie; I read that book, and in my head I know how much time it took. And the next one doesn’t negate the last one – it just keeps building.

Writing a column, finishing a drawing, painting the garage, they’re not their own reward – the reward is that by spending time on doing something that in many ways has no reason to be done other than because I choose to do it, I’ve slowed down the passage of time by creating something that I can measure it against in terms of the achievement.

It’s not that time passed slower, but my perception of it did. Getting lost in the moment is far different than wasting a moment.

Still, it’s always going to be easier to focus on the concrete than the intangible. One cookie in the stomach is worth two in the hand … or something like that.

I’m always going to put things off.

But by being aware of the problem, I can work on finding a solution, so that eventually, I’ll be Mr. Get-to-it-and-do-it instead of a procrasti-master.

Ha! See? I knew I’d come up with something eventually. That first description though … it needs some more work.

Maybe tomorrow.

Being that Halloween is so recently put behind us, I have a confession to make.

I am the repository for all unwanted candy. That which is left behind in the bags of trick-or-treaters – it belongs in my stomach.

See, I don’t believe in bad candy- some candy is just better than others. This is a spectrum I’m sure I share with many people.

My spectrum, like so much else in my life, appears to be completely opposite that of many, or even most, of my peers.

Perhaps even all of humanity.

For my favorite candies are the ones others tend to not only dislike, but actively hate.

Here are some examples:

Circus peanuts: those slightly-indeterminately yellowishly-orangey spongy (marshmallow?) vaguely peanut-loaf-shaped candies that are always in the store but which no one but me ever seems to buy. I enjoy the way they collapse in my mouth in a yellowishly-orangey flavor, as well as that slight, almost flesh-like resistance as I chew on them.

Like all candies on this list, I can easily put away a bag of these in a short period of time.

Mary Janes. Yet another candy that tops the disgusting Halloween candy list of so many people, this very well may be my favorite taffy of all. As a lover of peanut butter, what can possibly be better than peanut butter taffy, especially when that peanut butter center bursts open on the first chew?

Granted, their longevity in the mouth is tempered by the tendency to stick to my teeth in a way that probably makes every dentist reading shudder (assuming they haven’t already turned away in disgust at the mention of candy. For all tooth-care practitioners that are still reading, not only do I salute you, but I promise to brush and floss.)

But still, that lingering peanutty sweetness in my mouth lasts for a significant time after I discard the slightly-oily candy wrapping. It’s blissful.

For a change of pace, I turn to the candy my fellow collegiates would lick and stick to the wall – Necco Wafers. I’ll admit, their chalky texture may not be for everyone, but for me, there’s a certain satisfaction to the crack they make (Dentists – look away!) as they shatter against my teeth. Each one has a subtle, unidentifiable flavor that ranges from almost-orange to barely-banana to probably-peppermint.

These wafers do have a preternatural ability to stick irremovably from a surface once they’ve been wetted with saliva; I’m fairly certain there are still a few attached to the ceiling of the Student Union lounge at my alma mater.

Similar in structure, I also enjoy Canada Mints, those Pepto-Bismol-pink wintergreen mints seemingly found in every elderly woman’s house, but which no one ever seems to eat (I sense a theme). Their color belies their taste, and while I haven’t eaten one in years, I can still bring to mind their minty, lightly medical flavor and the slight sting of the sinus when they finally begin to dissolve in the mouth.

Candy Corn seems to top the list of many as their most-disliked candy, but I adore these honey-flavored delights, whether corn- or pumpkin- shaped. The flavor never actually seems to change with the color of the corn, and while I’ve seen them recolored for different holidays throughout the year, they really come into prominence in the fall. The beginning of October can easily be determined with the arrival of candy corn on store shelves.

How can anyone possibly not enjoy these candies? They’re colorful, they resist just slightly when chewing them, and more importantly, they can easily be eaten by the handful.

Or simply poured from the bag straight into the mouth. Whatever works best.

I completely disregard as irrelevant anyone’s claim that these candies are “Chalky!” or “Too sweet!” or “Holy crap I just puncture the roof of my mouth on one of these suckers ahhhh I’m bleeding …”

People like that just need to develop their palate and stop raining on my candy corn parade. Eat a Canada Mint; they’re medicinal.

But topping my list, the creme of my crop, my absolute favorite candy flavor, spread across various types of candies, is black licorice. This delicacy waters my mouth like no other, whether found in the candy-coated pink and white Good & Plenties, or left behind in the bowl when all the other colors of gumdrops have been eaten, black licorice tastes like the best part of the soul. The darker, the better; but while the taste can be sugary and light à la anise, or heavy and dark like a shower of molasses; I’ll take any and all with gusto. Heaven to me is a cascade of black licorice mix, all types and colors coming together in one sweet, sweet tsunami of decadence.

Granted, my love for black licorice may be genetic, passed down to me by my paternal grandmother. She also had a fondness for black jelly beans and licorice sticks. I’m not sure anyone else in my family shares the same fondness, however.

But hands down, the best part about all of my favorite candies?

No one ever tries to take them from me. In fact, many people willingly try to give them to me. All the better.

Sadly, with Halloween behind us, many of these will become harder to find as the inevitable march of Christmas-themed candies take their place on the store shelves.

Including those colorful, Christmas ribbon candies.

Those, you can have.

They’re just nasty.

I’m 46 years old, and I’m teething.

It’s complicated.

My teeth and I have always had a casual relationship. I don’t remember spending a lot of time with them growing up, and really only noticed them when they started falling out- naturally, on their own, to be replaced by adult teeth.

I went through the entire tradition of having dangling teeth pulled by my parents and swallowing one or two accidentally (teeth, not parents), quarters from the Tooth Fairy (it was the 70s), gap-smile school pictures, trying to scam the Tooth Fairy (didn’t work), the weird feeling of an empty socket and how it was impossible not to explore it with my tongue, and finally discovering my parents were actually the Tooth Fairy after all (I pretty quickly had my doubts anyway.)

See, according to my mother, soon after losing my first tooth and receiving my first quarter under my pillow, I was overcome with greed and devised a plan with my brother to pull the teeth from a random jawbone we found in our yard (I don’t know where it came from; they just showed up periodically. Probably drug home by the dog. I doubt they were human jaw bones, but I never really checked.) and put them under our pillows, then rake in the cash.

Apparently, we were tripped up by our lack of strength and inability to extract the teeth from the jawbone.

I don’t remember this happening, but I was clever enough to have planned such a scheme, so I have no reason to doubt her story.

My teeth and I didn’t really talk much until I neared the end of my third senior year in college. Years of less than adequate concern and care caught up with me, and I needed a series of fillings done on my teeth. The dentist did a number of them at once, leaving me fantastically numb across the lower part of my face when he was done.

Hungry, I stopped for a roast beef sandwich, and ate it as best as I could manage with my compromised mouth control. The sandwich seemed to be of far lower quality than normal for this particular fast-food joint, with nearly every bite finding yet another piece of gristle grinding between my front teeth.

Finishing my meal, I discovered it wasn’t barbecue sauce I’d been dripping uncoordinatedly from my chin.

I’d been chewing on my lower lip the entire time.

For this and other reasons, including an irrational fear of having a dental tool dropped down my throat during an exam, I avoided dentists for the next few years.

As an adult, I bounced around a number of jobs that didn’t offer dental insurance. Even with the higher level of care I now gave my teeth at home, their condition worsened, until I had to face the choice of a root canal and a crown to save a tooth, or an extraction to remove it. The first usually cost more than I took home in an entire paycheck, so I invariably choose the latter.

By the time I’d reached a level of adult capability where I could actually pay to save a tooth, I’d already lost nearly all my molars, and one front tooth that I’d delayed work on for too long and needed to be removed because the bone in my jaw was dying off around it. My smile now permanently matches one of my grade-school pictures. Second grade, probably.

There were times I regretted my new level of responsibility, such as when I was having a crown put on one of my remaining back teeth. Suddenly, the dentist slipped, and $600 dollars worth of gold dropped down my throat. I bolted upright, my throat muscles clamped tightly, and somehow managed to cough it back up and out again. Thank goodness for that – I really didn’t want to have to delay the procedure for a day while waiting to retrieve the tooth from nature’s course.

There’s only so well something can be cleaned off. At least I confronted, and overcame, my fear of swallowing dental equipment.

But it almost bit me in the behind.

My wisdom teeth came out when I was 30, and that’s an adventure of which I remember little, but I’m told I giggled all the way home afterwards. (To me, this is even more far-fetched and difficult to believe than the story of trying to rip off the Tooth Fairy, but again, I don’t remember well enough to argue.)

Because one of my wisdom teeth had decided to drop down perfectly alongside a molar in such a way that it supported its roots, the oral surgeon decided to leave it in place as to not compromise the structural integrity of the molar, since it wasn’t causing any other issues.

I just giggled and agreed.

Years later, that molar finally decided it had had enough and it was time to come out. After numerous fillings and reconstructions, I wasn’t in the mood to argue with it any more, so in January out it came. Once again, yet another dentist had to dig out their extra-big tools for me. (I’ve always suspected at least one borrowed some from a local veterinarian.)

My dentist speculated that the wisdom tooth would either cause unspecified problems in the future, now that it had been freed, or it might decide to play nice, and slowly move its way into the gap left behind by the missing molar.

Seven months later, that seems to be what’s happening. It’s been so long since a tooth has broken through my gums that I actually didn’t realize what was happening. It’s sore, but nothing to cry over (take that, babies!) I’m looking forward to actually gaining a molar to finally replace one of the many I’ve lost, even though I’m planning on getting some dentures when I’ve finally reached that next level of adulthood where I’m able.

Especially since I want to replace that missing front tooth with a gold one. I think it will add a little bit of character to my smile.

Second-grade me would be delighted.